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Eatonville’s Planned Boat Launch Irks Winter Park Neighbors

July 3, 2008

By Daphne Sashin, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

Jul. 3–Eatonville’s planned public boat launch on Lake Bell continues to rile Winter Park homeowners who own most of the shoreline. Mayor Anthony Grant has accused the homeowners of discrimination, as they are not limited in their use of the 33-acre lake. The homeowners have safety and environmental concerns.

Yes Homeowners are mainly worried about more powerboats and water scooters on a lake that is only about 1,000 feet across. Once the launch is built, they and Winter Park officials say they can’t stop the motorboats.

The proposed ramp “is capable of handling significant numbers of large powerboats,” Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight wrote to the DEP in April. “Keeping such craft off the lake will be difficult, and restricting the numbers will not be possible.”

About 35 homeowners live on the lake. Only a few residents own powerboats, and they let only one boat go out at a time.

The homeowners also say they have gone to great lengths and expense to clean up the lake. The Friends of Lake Bell told DEP that Eatonville has a poor history of environmental stewardship, having allowed the fishing pier to become “a major source of garbage flung directly into Lake Bell.”

No The School Board gave Eatonville an acre of lakefront in 1997. The town has a fishing dock now and has proposed a concrete boat launch with the Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP says it is satisfied with the design, and Eatonville has promised to limit access to boats without motors.

But Mayor Anthony Grant said that’s unfair.

“This is the haves vs. the have nots,” Grant said. “How can you say that it’s good for certain residents to use it, but the other residents on the other side can’t?”

Orange County must give approval for swimming or motorboat access. Winter Park has asked Orange County for that control.

“If they want to allow Eatonville to give approval for who can use the lake from the other side, then I would agree to this nonsense,” Grant said.

Daphne Sashin can be reached at dsashin@orlandosentinel.com or 407-650-6361.

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